Special visitor at Duggan Park Apartments
Santa Claus came early to families at Springfield Housing Authority’s Duggan Park Apartments.
And to the delight of the dozens of children gathered in wait, he came riding atop a horse-drawn wagon and bearing gifts for all.
The special visitor this week came thanks to the combined efforts of the ‘I Found a Light Against All Odds’, Blue Star Equiculture and Chez Josef, along with the SHA’s Resident Services Department.
SHA Executive Director Denise Jordan said the Santa visit made children happy as few other guests will do.
“Children love Santa Claus, and getting and receiving gifts, so this was the perfect blend for all of our families involved,” Jordan said. “We are grateful to the organizations that came together in this effort, and to our own staff who helped make this holiday so special.”
The plan to brig Santa, horses and sleigh and many gifts to Duggan Park was the brainchild of Stefan B. Davis, president, chief executive officer and founder of the I Found a Light organization, a local group whose mission is to identify, help and enrich at-risk children in the city.
The organization reached out to Blue Star as well as Chez Josef to make for a perfect event for children at the SHA family development in the Indian Orchard section of the city.
Jordan said the SHA is especially grateful to Davis and I Found a Light for reaching out and offering to shine their special gifts at Duggan, which they did in style.
Davis played the key role of Santa, with help from members of his organization, Blue Star, Chez Josef and the SHA Resident Services Department staff. Davis explained his inspiration behind the visit to Duggan.
“As a boy, I was once in darkness and always loved to see Santa in public places. Seeing Santa gave me happiness at the moment even if it was short lived,” Davis said. “As an organization, we focus on all youth that may be in darkness from all communities and shine light in their lives.”
Two days before the Christmas holiday, children and parents from two family developments — Duggan Park and Moxon – gathered outside of the Community Center on Goodwin Street to wait for the moment to arrive. The clear, sunny day was most welcome, drawing some 60 children and many parents.
Chez Josef set up a table and gave each child and parent a cup of hot cocoa and a holiday cookie as they waited.
Excitement was in the air as Santa approached from the east, high up on a black wagon pulled by two Clydesdale horses, in the service of Blue Star Equiculture. Owner Pam Rickenbach was on hand to guide children to pet the horses.
Inside the Community Center, Santa got cozy in a chair and met children one on one, handing out wrapped gifts for every boy and girl.
I Found a Light board member Ciara Speller said the organization is a local non-profit that aims to help at-risk children. For this event, gifts were collected at three recent Springfield Thunderbirds games, along with a GoFundMe drive.
“Being in a community where so many are not as lucky as we are, we feel it’s important to show that there are people who care a lot and are willing to help make things better,” Speller said.
Santa added much spirit to the day, giving high fives and offering many ‘Ho Ho Hos’ as he made his way into the center.
Children and parents were equally impressed.
“This is a great experience for a lot of families short on cash and not able to afford a lot for Christmas,” said Sheila Torres-Mendez, who had her nine-year-old daughter in tow.
Cousins Serenity Smith, 4, and Harmony Tucker, 7, had high praise for both Christmas and Santa.
“Christmas is for having fun with your family and getting presents,” said Serenity Smith.
Harmony Tucker added, “This is so much fun, I can’t wait to see Santa and tell him what I want for Christmas.”
The event filled the first day of vacation week for children. It also included a coordinated effort among many SHA staffers who work with residents, along with Jordan and Deputy Executive Director Nicole Kane.
Pamela Wells, resident services director, said the event made a lot of young people happy.
“The children really enjoyed it,” Wells said. ”You could feel their level of excitement, especially once Santa arrived on his sleigh. We appreciate the efforts by I Found a Light, Blue Star Equiculture and Chez Josef.”
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